Eurofins Agro UK Leads UK Slurry Forum

Eurofins Agro UK Leads UK Slurry Forum

25 October 2023

With impending legislation that will ban splash plates in 2025 and require slurry to be covered from 2027, Eurofins Agro Testing UK joined forces with a group of industry specialists to discuss best practice slurry management, storage, and application.

Fluctuations in the global fertiliser market have made slurry a more attractive option for many farms looking to save on input costs. However, the quality of slurry, its value to both soil and crop health is impossible to fully understand without accurate soil and slurry analysis.

Eurofins’ Bob Fabri joined a forum of industry experts from Origin Fertilisers and Tramspread to explain to members of the UK press how Eurofins was helping farms to use slurry more efficiently.

Focussing on a dairy farm case study where the herd was deficient in phosphorus he explained how analysing both slurry and soil was able to restore balance to both forage and rumen. Bob explained:

“A cow requires 79 grams of phosphorus per day and these cows were only receiving 71grams. Roughly 80 per cent of the phosphorus in the body is found in the bones. This phosphorus, as well as the phosphorus in milk, occurs in the form of calcium phosphate. Both phosphorus and calcium are required for bone formation and milk production and cows need the correct ratio of the two minerals to function normally.”

Following this discovery, a vet was consulted to address a problem with older cows that were showing symptoms similar to milk fever. Blood tests subsequently revealed a significant phosphorus deficiency.

“Cows can mobilise phosphorus from their bones, but this function declines with age and eventually ceases altogether. Cows tend to become vulnerable once they have reached six or seven years old. The symptoms can mimic milk fever, with poor appetite and depressed feed intakes which translate into a fall in yield, as well as general lethargy. Unlike milk fever, the urine of a cow with a phosphorus deficiency may be red in colour. In severe cases, it can cause bone deformities and breakages,” added Bob.

Eurofins soil analysis showed high levels of carbonate lime and only adequate levels of phosphorus.  This was attributed to historical flooding of the land in the 1950s which caused the percentage of carbonate lime to rise creating an imbalance.

The lack of phosphorus was subsequently identified in the cow’s forage.

“The silage analyses showed a similar phosphorus deficiency. A typical sample would contain 3.4-5g of phosphorus per kilo of dry matter, but on the case study farm, the silage contained just 2.6kgs.”

By testing soil and slurry, the farm was able to implement a plan to raise the levels of phosphorus in the soil and in the grass fed to the herd. The result was healthier, more productive cows without overusing inputs which saved the farm time and money.

Bob was joined by slurry storage and application experts Tramspread with John Tydeman and Terry Baker explaining how storing slurry throughout the year requires careful calculation to meet established overwinter capacity levels, especially for growing farms. They explained how keeping slurry mixed and homogenous makes it easier to manage and pump, saving time and fuel. This was all part of impending UK legislation that will see covering slurry become a requirement from 2027 to reduce ammonia emissions,

Callum Norman and Toby Ward from Origin Fertilisers discussed how improving slurry efficiency does not negate the need for fertiliser. Callum and Toby explained how to balance the use of both and how prescription nutrition can help farmers meet soil and crop requirements. They illustrated how soil and slurry testing data can help create targeted nutrition plans, to ensure the right fertiliser is being applied, and soil and crop needs are met to help increase slurry effectiveness.

The two also highlighted the importance of treating slurry with an inoculant before application to improve the nutrient value and spreading efficiency, drawing on data from recent trials that showed significant financial returns from using a liquid slurry inoculant.

The slurry forum was the first of its kind and has been well received by UK press with articles appearing in Farmers Weekly, Dairy Farmer and more. For more information on Eurofins soil testing click here and for slurry testing click here.